Sunday, July 04, 2010

[Travel] Fort Lauderdamndale

Fort Lauderdamndale: The end of the month brought a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, to go through college orientation with Miss Anna. Orientation itself was what orientation is at just about any college: a diversity-oriented intro for the students, a safety-oriented intro for the parents, and a universal introduction to a confused administrative bureaucracy. By the third day or so they get around to registering students for classes.

Anna will be attending Barry University a small(ish) Catholic school just north of Miami. I have mixed feelings about it. Barry is overtly, unabashedly Catholic and I am an admirer of the Catholic educational tradition in principle but, more than most Universities, puts an awful lot of emphasis on "social justice" which, while not necessarily bad, is certainly a concern. (When principles of "social justice" are applied to individual interactions they are, invariably, unjust.) All this is, of course, yet another example of a lesson I re-learn everyday: It's not my world anymore.

No photos, because much of the days were spent shuttling back and forth between the Sheraton on the beach in Ft. L (not a bad place, but there are nicer choices) and Barry U., but we did manage some interesting excursions.

A run up A1A to Delray Beach was a winner. It remains my favorite beach town in Florida -- laid back, uncrowded, beautiful beach, perfect main street (Atlantic Ave.) to stroll. I'll take a lounge chair and full cooler here any day. Try Pizza Rustica for a slice of pure awesome.

We also made a dash into South Beach for a tasty dinner at Emerils, but not before making an attempt to walk down Ocean Drive until the restaurant barkers and gay boys dancing in their underwear drove us away. Good timing because as soon as we made it over to Collins Ave. what must have been the entire the Miami Beach police force descended on Ocean Drive to deal with some form of insanity. I'm too old to find such hooliganism entertaining anymore.

More enjoyable was walking through two Art Deco gems, The National and The Delano. Anna declared The Delano to be the most beautiful hotel she had ever seen, including the ones in Vegas. I had to agree. We decided to make that the official hotel of future college visits to Anna, but have yet to decide who's going to take out the second mortgage.

(Unrelated observation: Two places that used to be on my list for regular visits but that I have since gotten over: South Beach and New Orleans. That leaves Manhattan and Vegas and the recently added Chicago. There is clearly meaning in that, but have no interest in finding it.)

We hit Bal Harbour (north end of Miami Beach) a couple of times for dinner as it's the most convenient place to Barry. A decent little block or two for wandering with some decent restaurants but Bal Harbour is mostly just super-expensive high-rise condos and a shopping mall that charges admission.

After dropping Misses Kate and Anna off at the airport I had a couple of hours before my flight (which turned into six hours, thanks Delta) so I explored a bit more of Ft. L proper. I remain unimpressed. There is a long strip of beach bars and hotels with loud music and drunken revelers, but if you really want that, you're better off in South Beach. There is Las Olas Blvd., which trys to be a chilled out main street, but the traffic can be heavy and it's not really close to the beach -- if you really want that, you're better off driving up to Delray. That's the issue I have with Ft. L. It's just doesn't seem to be comfortable in its own skin. It's an odd mix of vibrant party center and laid back beach town, as a result it succeeds as neither. This is especially clear when there are better alternatives for either atmosphere less than an hour away.

Still, whether it's Miami Beach or Ft. Lauderdale or Delray there is always the joy of crossing the broad, soft sand of the beach and floating about in the summer-warmed Atlantic, which hasn't changed since I was twelve. I think I'm going to have to visit Miss Anna fairly often.